Many an old recipe is in fact the forerunner of a present day one. So whilst a dish from the medieval era may look a little unusual at first glance, there are actually many common threads that link it to a similar one in use today. The staples of medieval food such as bread, meat, fish, vegetables, salad, sauces, desserts and cakes were just as important in 12th century as they are in the 21st century.
Not many dishes were actually documented due to the relatively low percentage of the population who were literate but some records do remain. However, the majority of recipes were passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation and over the centuries it is this ‘knowledge’ that people have drawn on to continue using as well as to refine the dishes prepared and eaten by our ancestors.
If you follow the links to the individual sections of recipes we have, such as bread recipes, you will begin to discover some surprising facts. Some will relate to similarities between recipes then and now and others will be the entire opposite, particularly when it comes to ingredients used. Alternatively, just visit our recipes grid for an overview of medieval recipes you can choose from.
Medieval & Modern Comparisons
An example of similarity between medieval and modern food is beef and red wine stew, a good recipe for which can be found here. This has long been a popular meat dish and of course remains popular to this day. The ingredients may have changed a little over the years but not radically so – it is still essentially beef with red wine!
An example of a big difference between medieval and modern food is salad. Salad was entirely different then to what we know today. The lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber that many of us grew up with and continue to enjoy were simply not generally available in medieval Europe. Salad recipes consisted mainly of flowers and herbs.
One of the most notable things about food from that period is that it echoed a class division – food for the rich and food for the poor. The common medieval man and his family (peasants) had far fewer ingredients available to them. They often kept chickens but generally did not eat them as they were needed to produce eggs and they were not allowed to hunt in the forests owned by nobles so deer and wild boar were meats destined only for the lord’s table. The same applied to freshwater fish. So the average working family’s diet was quite bland with herbs and vegetables forming the core of their diet. You can read more about this on our introductory page about medieval food in general.
The dishes featured in this site have been selected to reflect the different diets of both noble and peasant and we hope you will find enjoyment and excitement in the taste experience they offer.